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Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

xiii                                         SKUNKS                                        439
claws of the fore-paws. It is IsTorth American, but gets into
Mexico. The molar formula is as in the American genera
Mephitis and Gonepatiis, arid as in the Old-World Ictonyx, and
it thus differs from that of Meles. Besides the great size of the
claws upon the hand, which are larger relatively than those of
any other Carnivore, the genus Taxidea is to be distinguished
from all Arctoids (indeed, from all Garnivora) except Mydcuus, by
the fact that the pelvic limb is of the same length as the
pectoral. The muzzle is furry except at the very extremity ; this
is grooved. The animal is carnivorous, subsisting upon the
following very varied kinds of food—" Spermophiles, Arvicolas,
birds* eggs, and snails, also honey~comb? wax, and bees."
The Skunk, Mephitis, is an American animal with several
species, which range from North to Central America. The black-
and-white colour distinguishes the genus, which is furthermore
marked by the fact that the third digit of the hand is relatively
longer than in any other Carnivore except Taxidea. The soles are
partly hairy. It is a terrestrial fossorial animal with well-known
powers of protecting itself from aggression. But nevertheless the
Skunk has its enemie^ and is not quite so unmolested as is some-
times popularly supposed. The Puma, Harpy Eagle, and the
Great Horned Owl will at least occasionally attack and devour
it. The molar formula is Pm 4| M -J-. There are sixteen dorsal
vertebrae.
Conep&tus is a more southern form of Skunk, extending down
into South America. Its dentition is like that of Mephitis save
for the loss of an upper premolar. This genus, which has been
further subdivided, differs from Mephitis in the fact that the
soles of the feet are wholly naked, whereas in Mephitis those of
the hind-limbs are partially hairy. It has no groove on the
nose. Its tail is shorter than that of Mephitis. This Skunk
has the same habits as the last. In certain parts of South
America the animals are so abundant and their odour so powerful
that in. the evening there is generally- a recognisable smell about.
This is said to be good for the headache!
Siib-Fam. 3. Lutrinae.—Of this sub-family there are at least
two genera. IZnhydris (Latax)? the Sea-Otter, is confined to the
shores of the North Pacific. It is more purely aquatic than are
1 Lydekker, " :N"ote on. the Structure and Habits of the Sea-Otter (JSotoa? Zitfris),"
Proc. ZooL Soe. 1895, p, 421 j and ibid. 1896, p. 235.